From “Growing in the character of a disciple”: Chapter 13 – Some common errors and areas of confusion about what forgiveness is and how, and why, we are to do it
We must remember this crucial point, which may help some people who are struggling to forgive. It is that we do not forgive people for their sake, so that they can benefit. It is done, primarily, for our own benefit. So, it is not something we are doing to help the wrongdoer.
Furthermore, it does not require his repentance as a precondition. It is done to help ourselves and also, above all, to obey God. The wrongdoer may also benefit indirectly from our forgiveness, provided he repents and is willing to receive forgiveness from you and from God.
However, other than that, he will not usually benefit. In any case, even if he does benefit, he is not to be seen as the focal point of the situation, either from your perspective or God’s. It is not about the wrongdoer and it is not being done for his sake. On the contrary, his indifference to our forgiveness, and to any mercy or grace that we show to him, will probably only make his own eventual judgment a stricter one.
So, when we struggle to forgive, we need to keep reminding ourselves that it is something we are trying to do for our own benefit. It is for the sake of our own health, both emotional and physical, and also to protect ourselves spiritually. Above all, though, it is an issue of obedience.
Don’t allow the wrongdoer to harm you even further by preventing you from forgiving
Given all these factors, and there are some more that we shall look at below, we must not allow the wrongdoer’s unrepentant attitude to prevent us from achieving forgiveness. That would be to allow the wrongdoer to compound the original wrong which he did. So, do not allow anybody to have so much influence over you that they can determine whether, or when, you forgive them. It is not up to them.
It is up to you, because your forgiveness of them is primarily being done for your benefit, not theirs. And, of course, it is being done in order to obey God’s command. Therefore you must not allow anybody else to be in control of whether or not you obey God. So, be in sole control of your own life. Don’t allow the wrongdoer to retain any ongoing power or influence over you, either in this area, or in any other. Of course, this is much easier said than done, but it still remains the right thing to aim for.